Lombard's crooked street is a postcard-perfect image that represents San Francisco around the world. But what exactly is this attraction and what does it have to offer the San Francisco visitor?
Lombard Street in San Francisco is one of America's crookedest streets and found on many tours. The steep, hilly street was created with sharp curves to switchback down the one-way hill past beautiful Victorian mansions. If not for the byzantine curves, easing out this treacherous slope, people could be killed rolling down. For an idea of how steep this street really is, go two blocks up, to Filbert Street and peer down over the ridge. Lombard is even steeper.
Some of San Francisco’s most expensive real estate sits on Lombard Street. This Russian Hill neighborhood possesses stately mansions even with the endless array of tourists pouring down the street every day. In the spring and through the entire summer, Lombard Street is alive with color, as the many beautiful flowers are in bloom.
Lombard: The Crookedest Street in the World
The portion of Lombard Street that everyone knows from the postcards is a section that has been dubbed “the crookedest street in the world”. This refers to the windy switchbacks of road that grace the block between Hyde and Jones. The curvy nature of the one-way drive along with the steep slope of these blocks makes for a fun ride that’s also a visual treat. In total you’ll count eight tight turns in the one block portion of street here.
But did you know that Lombard isn’t truly the “crookedest” street in the world? In fact, it’s not even the crookedest street in San Francisco. That honor belongs to Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd streets in the Portrero Hill neighborhood. Though technically slightly curvier than Lombard, and an interesting sight in its own right, this street doesn’t have the fame or the visual beauty that Lombard Street has, which is why people flock to Lombard Street to take photos during their visit.
A Little Lombard Street History
People are often puzzled as to why this street is so crooked. The answer is safety. The naturally steep grade of the street posed a severe safety hazard. In the 1920’s a property owner in the area suggested the scenic switchbacks to add aesthetic appeal while increasing safety for pedestrians.
What Can You Enjoy On Lombard Street?
Each day there are dozens of tourists that traipse up and down the few blocks that make up the curvy part of Lombard Street. But what exactly can you do at this attraction? Here are the major activities that actually take place on the block:
Take scenic photographs. When you are at the bottom of the curvy portion of the road looking up (west) at the top then you get to see an amazing vision of the winding part of the road. Cars will be coming down it so you can see the switchbacks of the road clearly, which is, of course, what the landmark is known for. On either side of the curving road you will see gorgeous homes. Each portion of “yard” between the home and the curved road is perfectly manicured with lush greenery and pretty flowers. This is wonderful to look at and allows for beautiful scenic photos with a pop of color in them. Then, at the top of the hill, you get the opportunity to look down (east) at a terrific view of the city, seeing portions of the Bay and glimpsing the Bay Bridge and the city below. You can also see Coit Tower from here, providing another scenic backdrop for your tourist photos.
Enjoy a scenic drive. If you are in a car then you can head West on Lombard Street to take a drive down the curving part of the road. It’s a fun little drive. Many people lean out the window with their video cameras to capture the experience on film. Note, however, that this area often gets backed up with traffic and driving is slow. If you are in the city during peak driving times in the tourist-filled summer months of the year then expect to wait in line for awhile to be able to take your turn in a car.
Famous Homes. Many tourists don’t realize it but there are actually several landmark homes on this portion of Lombard Street that you can notice (and photograph) when you walk past. See the article section below for details.
Get some exercise. The scenic curvy part of the street is only a couple of blocks long but it’s very steep. The people who walk up the steps that are located on either side of the street often have to pause to catch their breath. You’ll get some nice exercise if you take this scenic walk!
Catch a cable car. The Hyde Street cable car passes right by the top portion of the crooked street so you can catch it at a stop near here. Take it north for a quick ride to the Fisherman’s Wharf area or head south for a scenic jaunt through the city with great views terminating at bustling Market Street.
Famous Homes on Lombard Street
The following famous homes are all just steps away form the crooked part of Lombard Street. You can’t go inside them but you can notice them from the outside as you’re walking around this area.
The Real World House. On the Southern side of the street is the Real World San Francisco house (the home that the cast stayed in when the show was filming here). It’s at 949 Lombard Street between Jones and Leavenworth, just before you reach the bottom of the curvy part of the road if you’re walking up the hill.
The Montandon House. Just slightly further up on the right, at 1000 Lombard Street, is the Montandon House, former home of 1960’s socialite Pat Montandon and reportedly one of the Bay Area’s haunted homes! Whether or not you believe in the stories of haunted houses, the history of the home is an interesting one because of the jet set lifestyle that Montandon lived there and the death that occurred that caused her to begin thinking the home was haunted (and ultimately causing her to move out).
Scottie’s Apartment from Vertigo. Speaking of spooky homes, San Francisco scenery plays a prominent role in the famous Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo. Scottie’s apartment is located at 900 Lombard Street, on the same side of the street as The Montandon House but a block down the hill at the corner of Jones and Lombard.
How to Get to Lombard Street
The crooked famous portion of Lombard Street is located between Jones St. and Hyde St. An exact address to reach the crooked street from your GPS or phone is 1070 Lombard Street, San Francisco, California 94109. Check out a free map of the area to plan your trip. The most common methods of getting to the crooked street address are:
City bus. You can take several city buses through North Beach to get here, the most popular of which is the 30, which runs from Union Square. You should get off on Columbus near Lombard. From here you will walk west (uphill) a few blocks to get to Jones, the bottom of the hill where the curvy part of the street begins.
Cable car. The Powell-Mason cable car line stops at Lombard and Columbus, too, so that’s an option for getting to the bottom of the curvy street. Alternatively, the Hyde Street cable car will drop you off at the top of the curvy street.
Car. Note that the curvy portion of the street only runs one way, towards the East. To drive you’ll want to come to this street from Van Ness, turning east on Lombard and taking the road this way.
Tour bus. Many of the city’s tourist buses pass by the crooked street either via Hyde or via Columbus. They aren’t able to go down the crooked street (it’s too crooked for a bus!) Some of them stop to let visitors walk around the area and others pause briefly for a photo-op and some information about the street.
In the Area
Although the walk is steep, visiting Lombard Street doesn’t take a lot of time. That’s okay, though, because it puts you in the perfect place to visit numerous other San Francisco attractions. From this area you are within short walking distance to North Beach, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf which all have their own attractions. You are also located just a few blocks away from the San Francisco Art Institute, which sometimes has events, lectures and art shows for the public.
It is also worth noting that Lombard Street west of the curvy portion is actually a major thoroughfare that can easily take you by car to numerous other portions of the city. For more great things to do - you can take it west to several dining options, the Palace of Fine Arts and even all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge.